March 10, 2012

Cuenca, Ecuador: The Adventure

For those who haven't heard, we are moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, in April. Ecuador is less expensive, has great classical music, Cuenca is gorgeous, and what the hell, we already live in a city surrounded by people who don't speak English. (Seriously, there are at least 5 non-English languages going in our 8-unit building. Hardly hear English at all.)

We have our plane tickets and a place to stay for the first month while we look for something more permanent. The expat community is welcoming — we already have social plans — and I am a member of the iPad users group.

While we are choosing to look at this as a big adventure, it is based on some harsh realities. K. W. and I are in our 60s, Social Security will not support us very well in the U.S., medical care is getting more and more expensive, and we have no desire to eat the cheapest cat food for protein.

Both our unemployment has run out.  In six months in Las Vegas, I had one interview. Someone much younger got the job. In San Francisco, I have applied for numerous jobs from marketing/writing at SF Opera and at Lines Ballet (you'd think that I would have at least been interviewed for that one) to handing out food at Fresh & Easy (which did interview me). F&E and a jewelry store (I'm a G.G.) were the only interviews I've had in a year. I saw who they hired, and the women were at least 30 years younger than me.

So, I have been doing some freelance editing and writing for California Literary Review (dance writing) and iDine (restaurant reviews), which doesn't pay a lot, but it is at least "current employment." Luckily for K. W., he has a writing career of some note. But we need to live somewhere that is far less expensive than the U. S., yet is still pleasant.

We have done our research, and having lived abroad before, are aware that adapting to another culture has its issues. They are not insurmountable.

Cuenca is a city of 400,000 with only about 1,000 expats. It also is a center of medical tourism. There is a state health insurance system, which means the private insurance is affordable. And good. Orchestra concerts are free (and have some interesting rep that we don't hear in the U. S.).

We are getting all our info together for our pensioner visas (good heavens, how did that happen?). Ecuador has a special one for retirees — they like the influx of cash. Cuenca even puts on a special "Gringo Days" celebration each year. And if it doesn't work out, there's always Montevideo.

South America has always been on my bucket list. And K. W. is more of a co-conspirator than a husband. We are selling or giving away almost everything. They have stuff there. The goal is 2 checked bags and 1 carryon each, plus (maybe) one shipment of art and a few other bits and pieces we can bring back once we have our official residency.

March 2, 2012

Mark Bourne: Always Singin' in the Rain

Mark in San Francisco 2012

Last week, our friend Mark Bourne died. While he had had some major health issues in the past, things seemed to be going well for him. In fact, when we saw him a few days beforehand, he looked and seemed fine. Not "I wish he looked better" fine, but really FINE! What the F***!

Like all his friends, and especially his wife Elizabeth and stepson Austin, it has been hard grappling with this Mark-less world. But is it? Or is it just that we can't email him or phone him up or have a glass of wine with him? I do know that he made a difference in our lives, as well as that of many others.

To be honest, I don't remember exactly when we met Mark, but I do remember where. We were at Powell's, in the science fiction section, and K.W. was signing the author pillar. Mark came up to us and introduced himself. Now, a lot of you may not realize it, but K.W. can be a bit shy with strangers. But Mark, in his usual Markish way, didn't pay any attention to K.W.'s initial demeanor. He just smiled, chatted away, and invited us to get together with him and Elizabeth. And so we did.

Parties at the Bournes to celebrate various holidays and milestones, backyard barbecues at the Jeters where much Navarro wine was consumed, brunches at Wild Abandon — many good times. Through it all, Mark was at the center, creating different ways and various combinations to introduce his friends to one another. 

One of the most felicitous stemmed from Mark's well-known love for classic movie musicals. Once he discovered that K.W. and David Delamare were also fans — pick a couple of musicals, lay in the wine, and presto-chango — party time. We were at David and Wendy's place when the guys decided that they formed an unusual subset — and hey, gang, let's form a club — Straight Guys Who Love Musicals!

This guy loved movies!! And it is when watching them that I always think of Mark: The Third Man, the original King Kong, anything Marx Brothers, Fred Astaire, or Gene Kelly, especially Singin' in the Rain, one of his all-time top picks. In fact, every time I watch that film, it never fails. My inner head voice says, "That's one of Mark's favorites." 

We were very lucky that even when Mark, Elizabeth, K.W., and I left Portland for Seattle and Las Vegas, we all managed somehow to keep in touch. It was made easier because Austin was at school in Las Vegas, where we were living. Then, Austin signed on for grad school in San Francisco at about the same time we were returning here. More fun visits over the last year and a half. The most recent was only two weeks ago. Dinner and drinks in Hayes Valley on a Saturday night and coffee in the Inner Richmond on Monday afternoon before they left for home on Tuesday. We spent most of the time talking about happy futures for us all.

Damn. We will miss him.